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What constitutes a hate crime?

On Behalf of | Dec 21, 2022 | Criminal Charges

The recent Club Q mass shooting resulted in 305 criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator, including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and assault at the LGBTQ nightclub. Additional charges include bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury.

Bias-motivated crimes are commonly known as hate crimes, where an assault or vandalism is partly or entirely motivated by bias against someone’s race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Many prosecutors believe that with those infractions on the books, a certain standard is established demanded of everyone that society should place protections on diversity.

Digging deep to identify hate crimes

What a suspect says can be pivotal in determining intent. Law enforcement scours text messages, social media, and casual conversations with friends and family. Even words uttered before, during, and following an attack can provide insight. Choice of the location plays a role, as does the clientele that frequent the area and the suspect visiting before an attack.

Last year, Colorado state hate crimes changed. Previously, prosecutors had to prove the suspect’s intent was solely motivated by hate. Now, bias motivation is only a part of the alleged offender’s motivation.

A recent Colorado survey revealed that one out of five adults in the state had experienced bias or an outright hate crime due to sexual orientation. Hate Free Colorado also found that one-third of adults statewide have experienced various forms of bias or hate crimes in recent years that took the form of verbal harassment, property damage, or physical injury.

In addition to state-level charges, the alleged gunman could also face federal prosecution under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.